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Poetics 37 (2009) 474–489

‘‘Heritage rock’’: Rock music, representation and
heritage discourse
Andy Bennett
Centre for Public Culture and Ideas, Griffith University, Nathan Campus, 170 Kessels Road,
Nathan, Qld 4111, Australia

Available online 22 October 2009

This article seeks to illustrate how ‘‘rock’’ music, as originally defined by an aesthetic dating back to the
mid-1960s, is now being culturally and historically repositioned through the application of ‘‘heritage rock’’
discourses. Changing definitions of heritage in an era of cultural fragmentation give rise to new under-
standings and articulations of cultural heritage. It is in this context that the concept of heritage rock must be
placed. Three examples of the heritage rock discourse and practice are considered: Classic Albums Live, the
Canterbury Sound website, and Songworks (a small independent record label). Classic Albums Live
constitutes an essentially conservative articulation of heritage rock grounded in dominant rock canons; the
Canterbury Sound website and Songworks, represent a more DIY (do-it-yourself) approach to the heritage
rock project that seeks to reinsert into rock history and rememberings those artists overlooked and ignored in
more conservative accounts.
# 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

This article considers emergent trends that seek to reposition rock music as an aspect of late
twentieth century cultural heritage. It is argued that a key factor underlying this trend is a shift in
the way that heritage and culture is understood and applied within late modern society.
Increasingly informed by ‘‘consecrating institutions’’ (Bourdieu, 1991) associated with the
media and cultural industries (Allen and Lincoln, 2004; Schmutz, 2005), notions of heritage and
culture are progressively more grounded in the popular cultural forms and products of the recent
past. Within this, contemporary popular music forms, and rock in particular, have become
significant aspects. The discourse of heritage rock embodies a range of practices spanning the
performative, the ideological, and the aesthetic. Broadly speaking, heritage rock projects fall into

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began experimenting with less commercial. however. both of whom had enjoyed unprecedented commercial success producing radio and chart-friendly music. and the formation of ‘‘supergroups’’1 such as Cream placed a new purchase on the importance of musicianship. Classic Albums Live. During the mid-1960s. the musicians on stage as an ‘‘ensemble’’. the Doors. the emergence of new artists such as Jimi Hendrix. DIY preservationism. more album- orientated music that relied heavily on recording studio technology for its production. and small independent record label Songworks (these latter two being examples of what are referred to in this article as DIY preservationism). The activities engaged in by DIY preservationists include the salvaging and re-mastering of old. critical canons of rock music. This came to permeate the culture of rock. Such a belief was motivated by the way in which popular music began to shift direction during the mid-1960s. painters. . As will be illustrated. epitomises an alternative form of heritage rock project. A. These distinctive trends are examined and discussed with reference to three specific forms of heritage rock project. these examples link to broader contexts through which an informed sociological understanding of rock’s positioning within discourses of culture and heritage can be developed. writers and poets (Regev. musicians. for a variety of reasons. and often highly revered. becoming a key antecedent in the aestheticisation of rock music and its separation from chart music by musicians. DIY (do-it-yourself) definitions of rock artistry and achievement. and the songs performed as ‘‘works’’. 1 The term ‘‘supergroup’’ refers to a group formed of already established. Groups such as the Beach Boys and the Beatles. independent record labels to preserve and promote the music of rock musicians who have. ‘‘rock’’ bespoke a new musical sensibility that espoused its own performative. In the case of both Classic Albums Live and DIY preservationism specific empirical examples will be drawn upon to demonstrate the distinctive contributions they make to the heritage rock discourse. At the same time. it is important to establish the definition of rock music as it is applied in the context of this article. Classic Albums Live is a relatively recent concept that involves the ‘‘faithful’’ reproduction of selected. the second evading such canons and offering alternative. 2. cultural and aesthetic discourses. 2001). but as a creative resource in its own right (Zak. Defining rock Before proceeding. Such articulations of the heritage rock discourse adhere to dominant canonical readings of rock mastery and achievement – the albums chosen for replication being those already endorsed by the music industry and cited in mainstream popular music magazines such as Rolling Stone and Mojo as milestone recordings. In this case. The Classic Albums Live concept applies a rhetoric derived directly from classical music – the performance being referred to as a ‘‘recital’’. 1994). unreleased music or the production of albums featuring new material by forgotten and obscure artists. fallen into obscurity and thus do not feature in established canons of rock achievement. The trend set by these and other groups established a pattern whereby the recording studio came to be regarded not merely as a means of capturing an artist’s live sound. the Canterbury Sound website. for example. on the other hand. Central to the rock aesthetic were the notions that rock was ‘‘serious’’ music and that rock performers were ‘‘artists’’ who warranted critical acclaim in a similar way as those more conventionally regarded as artists. Bennett / Poetics 37 (2009) 474–489 475 two distinctive categories: the first drawing on dominant. key agents are often rock music enthusiasts who establish media such as internet fan sites or small. critically acclaimed rock albums in a live performance context.

tradition and place that . classical and jazz styles (see Macan. the unprecedented success of groups such as Led Zeppelin (Fast. which blended elements of rock. ideology and youth radicalism converged. Redefining heritage As Atkinson (2008: 381) observes. performers and consumers feed into current discourses of heritage rock. enshrines particular rock musicians of the late 1960s and early 1970s not merely as sub- or counter-cultural icons. by definition. That said. however. much of the spectacle and aura of the rock phenomenon take their place among other icons and public figures of note – politicians. Within this. Traditionally speaking.’’ For Atkinson (2008: 381). rock became the signature tune of the hippie counter-culture. Although. 2001) and the emergence of progressive rock. 1998). central to its ideology was a counter-hegemonic discourse that pitched the hippies against the mounting technocratic nature of western capitalist society (Roszak. Most importantly. In this sense. Rather. sports stars. the term counter-culture has been over- generalised. as Clecak (1983) argues. 2008: 266). The process though which heritage status is conferred on rock music in this way can be directly related to shifts in perceptions of heritage and culture that have occurred over the last twenty years. rock and chart music (or in its European context ‘‘pop’’) also exhibited important cultural distinctions during the late 1960s and early 1970s. giving rise to criticisms among some commentators that ‘‘anything and everything from the past is now celebrated uncritically and indiscriminately. Sociologically speaking. 2001). 3. 1997. this recasting of heritage could also be seen to represent a ‘‘more far-reaching re- engagement with collective pasts. As Frith (1981) observes. 1969). .476 A. a quality that also separated them – in the minds of their audience – from those artists who populated the singles charts and produced songs that were – from the point of view of rock audiences – musically effete and lyrically vacuous. journalists. represented and celebrated (Bennett. the heritage rock project moves beyond rock’s hitherto accepted context as a ‘‘critical moment’’ in the mid-1960s when discourses of art. the focus for preservation and consecration (Schmutz. the heritage rock discourse .’’ Such shifts in the way heritage is now being rearticulated and applied also have significant ramifications regarding what are understood as key components of heritage. thus. Bennett / Poetics 37 (2009) 474–489 journalists and audiences alike (Shuker. Certainly. Martin. the music itself comes to be regarded as the primary legacy and. the concept of heritage is now both highly contested and increasingly multi-layered. During the early 1970s. there are also distinctive differences between ‘‘rock as art’’ and ‘‘rock as heritage’’ discourses. film actors and so on – with the latter group deemed as having made significant contributions to the development of late 20th culture at both the national and global level. Rock musicians were regarded as key spokespeople of the counter-cultural movement. . In marking the distinctive contribution to culture and heritage legacy is a significant measure. further consolidated this belief in the cultural value of rock (Frith and Horne. 2005). ‘‘heritage rock’’ embraces another sensibility in which issues of shared generational experience and cultural memory are also of significant importance. heritage has been used to refer to representations of custom. In the case of rock musicians. those musicians who have created rock music and. but as key contributors to the essential character of late twentieth century culture per se and an integral aspect of the way in which this era of history is to be remembered. 1987). such understandings of rock on the part of critics.

Indeed. language. where aspects of ‘‘high’’ and ‘‘low’’/popular culture frequently merge (Storey. as previously argued. 1993). as commercial. Through its appropriation and use in everyday. must in any case be regarded as an increasingly artificial distinction) but as an integral part of culture. for example. Indeed. This is seen. such high culture/ low culture distinctions are increasingly unsustainable in the context of late modernity. At the same time.. such is the centrality of mass produced culture in the context of contemporary everyday life that it has effectively become intertwined with residual cultural forms. music. local dialect.. 1999). McDowell. routinely draw on high art discourses (Janssen et al. As this description suggests. commercial and global properties rendered them the antithesis of authentic cultural value as conceived in conventional heritage discourse. . continue to influence notions of cultural identity to a fair degree. But these are tempered by more recent. Likewise. 2006). a number of institutional biases served to block the incorporation of contemporary popular cultural forms into heritage discourse. individuals regularly conflate residual and mass cultural elements into seamless narratives of national and regional distinctiveness. This is not to suggest that these previous forms of authority have disappeared altogether. rather than merely associating the cultural value of music with aspects of locality and national identify (though these issues retain importance. television (Bielby and Bielby. instances of what Williams (1965) refers to as residual culture. and music in particular.’’ However. its production and reproduction over time. as a growing body of literature attests. including popular music (Van Venrooij and Schmutz. television and film – that have begun to replace traditional forms of authority – grounded in issues of community and tradition – as key resources through which individuals frame identities in the context of late modernity. On the contrary. generationally based terms. see Bennett. 2000) those who invest in popular music as an aspect of cultural heritage are equally apt to articulate this in trans-local. 2008). popular culture ceases to be regarded as something set apart from culture per se (which. for example. in press). for example. for example. critical reviews of a variety of popular cultural forms. A. mass-produced cultural forms. They view popular music as something that bonds and shapes individuals through specific instances of cultural memory tied to their collective associations with particular music scenes and associated cultural groups as these manifest themselves at a global level (Bennett. 1992. vernacular contexts. and perception. the new significance attached to popular culture. The intertwining of popular culture with broader cultural narratives in this way also gives rise to new understandings of popular culture’s role in the shaping and trajectory of culture. 2008). by the way in which state subsidy for the ‘‘arts’’ and ‘‘culture’’ has generally been directed towards more high-brow definitions of the latter. of the term ‘‘culture’’ itself in late modernity. particular mannerisms and so on. such a definition of heritage was not readily applied to rock music and other aspects of contemporary popular culture – for their mass-produced. As Shuker (2001: 68) observes: ‘‘Popular culture’ is then constructed in opposition to this. fashion. and so unworthy of government support. Thus. Aligned with this shift is the changing nature. inauthentic. Bennett / Poetics 37 (2009) 474–489 477 coalesce within the cultural memory of a particular national or regional context and fundamentally contribute to the shaping of the latter’s collective identity (see Hobsbawm and Ranger. Chaney (2002) has argued that a key impact of mediatisation and the increasing centrality of consumerism in daily life since the end of the Second World War has been a gradual fragmentation of everyday culture and the rise of new forms of lifestyle orientation – grounded in. 2004) and literature (Van Rees et al. In naming what they consider to be the key aspects of their cultural milieu. has given rise to new understandings of its ‘‘cultural’’ value.

Most importantly. consecrating institutions increasingly operate across the sphere of contemporary popular culture. See also Palmer’s (1976) book of the same name. but rather as a key element in their collective cultural awareness and a major contributor to their generational identity. Spanning a rich lineage of genres. edited from the original version of the film of the festival released in 1970 (see Bennett. in the fields of television. Three years later Message to Love. historical importance and cultural value on particular texts. the film of the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival containing among other things the last British performance by Jimi Hendrix. As indicated earlier in this article. the 1968 film Monterey Pop. 1994 saw the release of Woodstock: The Director’s Cut which restored a number of classic Woodstock performances. 2004a). In 2002. such as Mojo. As Schmutz observes. notably by Canned Heat and the Jefferson Airplane. not merely as something particular to their youth. 2005). Schmutz. In the context of popular music. For example. also by producer D. print and visual media have performed an incisive role in the process of retrospective cultural consecration. together with more recent ‘‘retro’’ music magazines. this generation’s own representatives. was made commercially available for the first time. and are therefore able to reinforce their values in other secondary material. As Jones (2008: 94) observes. and Rock and Folk (the latter being the first French language retro music magazine on this topic) have collectively assembled a canon of rock artists and albums on which the heritage rock discourse draws.A. Rolling Stone magazine. the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Are You 2 Twenty years earlier. In particular. 2004. Rock as heritage It is in this context that we can begin to understand and examine the significance of the term heritage rock and the various discourses it espouses. Tony Palmer’s television series All You Need is Love offered its own mapping of 20th century popular music. journalism and other cultural industries. documenting the 1967 Monterey pop festival. the series focused on the most critically acclaimed artists of each era in its explication of post-war popular music history. from be-bop to rap. A number of critical antecedents have assisted the baby-boomer generation’s collective re- classification of rock from the music of their youth to a fundamental aspect of late 20th century cultural heritage. contributing authors to such magazines are ‘‘the same authors who write books on individual albums and general histories of rock. the lavishly produced ten-part documentary series Dancing in the Streets focused on the development of post-war popular music from the 1950s through to the early 1990s.2 More recently the highly successful BBC series Classic Albums brings together musicians. Bennett / Poetics 37 (2009) 474–489 4. . Classic Rock. to be landmark recordings. The heritage rock discourse is very much part of the ageing rock audience’s reassessment of rock. was released as box set including 2 h of extra performance footage and two additional short films. Rock albums thus far featured in the series include Cream’s Disreali Gears. Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis at Monterey (both of which had originally been released in 1986).’’ Film and television have also played their part in serving up and reinforcing critical canons through which baby-boomer audiences have come to re-classify rock as an aspect of late 20th century heritage.478 A. During the mid-1990s. conferring critical acclaim. rock is now embedded firmly in the cultural memory of an ageing baby-boomer generation. have drawn on their institutional power and status to engage in this process. Pennebaker. within established canons of the music press. Useful in exploring this issue is the concept of ‘‘retrospective cultural consecration’’ (Allen and Lincoln. studio producers and engineers to talk about their contributions to what are critically judged. film.

also firmly entrenched in the rock canon. a short-hand term for demonstration. The role of print and audio-visual media has been supplemented through the emergence of what could be termed ‘‘prestige-granting’’ bodies and institutions. George Harrison and Ringo Starr. the year 1995 saw the release of the six-part Beatles Anthology television documentary series which brought the then three surviving members of the Beatles. about their time as the Beatles. Many of those artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame each year first rose to prominence during the rock revolution of the late 1960s. notably Australian group Wolfmother. 2009 inductees included British jazz-rock guitarist Jeff Beck whose early career was spent playing with the Yardbirds alongside Jimmy Page. the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Led Zeppelin as key influences on their own music. and institutional. together for the first time in over twenty-five years to be interviewed. the Who’s Who’s Next. At the same time. has undoubtedly played a significant part in the retrospective consecration of selected rock artists and their most celebrated works. In addition to re-issuing original albums. identified by Schmutz (2005) as a critical driver of the retrospective cultural consecration process and production of the rock canon. Since the late 1980s. Similarly. This began in earnest during the mid-1980s when CD re-issues of albums previously released on vinyl were instrumental in enabling an economically empowered ageing baby-boomer audience to effectively rediscover its musical past. a new generation of what could be termed retro-rock bands. Savage. 1990). a large-scale retro market has blossomed as the music industry has increasingly sought to target the tastes of its highly lucrative ageing baby-boomer consumer base (Frith. refers to basic versions of tracks – typically consisting of vocal/guitar or vocal/guitar – often recorded by a song-writer or band member as a means of conveying the essence of a newly composed song to fellow musicians. has been made commercially available for the first time. the music industry itself has played no small part in supplying the products that feed into and underpin the heritage rock project. OH in 1983. established in Cleveland. such as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. . The Doors and Led Zeppelin. selecting studio out-takes of Beatles’ material for the 3- CD Beatles Anthology collection and working on three new Beatles’ songs utilising ‘‘demos’’3 recorded by fellow Beatle John Lennon in New York before his murder in December 1980. A. previously unreleased live material from a range of sixties and seventies rock artists. For example. the music industry also introduced special anniversary editions of albums. using new digital recording and editing techniques. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Queen’s A Night At The Opera (all of which were produced between 1967 and 1975 during what is now commonly regarded as the classic era of rock music). Finally. Finally. For example. 2006). bolsters the critical acclaim of a select body of rock artists through featured exhibitions and permanent displays. the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The dawn of the video age in the early 1980s saw the rapid availability of ‘‘classic’’ concert appearances. Paul McCartney. All three songs featured Lennon’s original vocal tracks which. Bennett / Poetics 37 (2009) 474–489 479 Experienced. 1990. McCartney. The 3 The term ‘‘demo’’. have cited late 1960s and early 1970s rock bands such as Cream. The Classic Albums concept itself draws heavily upon the Rolling Stone ‘‘500 Greatest Albums’’ listing. were lifted directly from his home-made demo recordings and set to new arrangements. context for the realisation of the heritage rock project is highly significant. Harrison and Starr also collaborated in the studio. The combined influence of each of the above factors in providing a broader cultural. As VHS gave way to the DVD format. including Jimi Hendrix. which often included additional liner notes and bonus tracks. individually and together. the tribute band phenomenon (see Homan.

With over 100 dedicated websites detailing concerts. In the context of live performance. for whom albums and live performances were considered quite separate musical statements. and the various retro music magazines noted earlier. the proliferation of overdubs heard in the guitar work of Jimmy Page on the studio albums of Led Zeppelin. reveals a clear pattern of choice in featured repertoire. 1979). they generally feature in the greatest album listings of Rolling Stone. from the late 1960s onwards. Europe and the Asia Pacific. and the multi-layered vocals that characterise the studio work of Queen. 1976). Given the influence of factors discussed earlier. albums are often valued if they serve as commentaries or reflections of their time. In terms of its part in the re-classification of the rock album as an aspect of cultural heritage. 1997).’’ Similarly. performance [has] refer[ed] to a creation-in- progress. the contents of an album were not generally performed in their entirety on-stage. tempo and repertoire.480 A. rock bands increasingly came to regard the studio as a space in which the limitations of live performance could be transcended (Zak. and The Wall (Pink Floyd. This is clearly illustrated. for example. 5. venues and ticketing facilities. With the exception of progressive rock acts such as Yes and Genesis. a concept that centres on the faithful reproduction of a specifically chosen album in a live performance setting. A Night at the Opera (Queen. it is only later that timelessness and longevity become an issue. As noted above. 1971) Exile on Mainstreet (The Rolling Stones. Led Zeppelin IV (Led Zeppelin. Billboard. Rumours (Fleetwood Mac. 1967) Abbey Road (The Beatles. 1977). The range and variety of albums chosen for performance varies but. traditionally live ‘‘performance [has] hint[ed] at the uncompleted nature of pop – the fact that there tend not to be so much great works as versions. Hotel California (The Eagles. the notion of the album as a ‘‘body of work’’ has rarely crossed the threshold from the studio to the live performance context. cut-for-cut’’ in a live context. Most importantly. Bennett / Poetics 37 (2009) 474–489 remainder of this article focuses on three specific instances of the heritage rock project and their implications for our broader understanding of rock’s re-classification as cultural heritage in late modernity. a survey of existing Classic Albums Live websites. frequently listed albums include Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (The Beatles. whose albums often followed a concept-format and thus called for accurate live replication (see Macan. it seeks to recreate a body of work that was never intended to be reproduced ‘‘note-for-note. 2001). the ‘‘album’’ has achieved status as a central historical artefact of rock music. notably the CD re-issue market and critical commentaries such as the Classic Albums television series. 1969). According to Jones (2008: 91): ‘‘Because of the immediacy and contemporary nature of rock music. . 1975). 1972). songs from a new album were rather mixed in with existing material to create the optimal effect in terms of aural dynamics. mixes and shifting genres. In short. Classic Albums Live has quickly become a global phenomenon with a large variety of performances taking place across North America. Classic Albums Live is significant for a number of reasons. Indeed. by the ambitious arrangements and myriad special effects featured on the Beatles’ album Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. the latter including listings for performances around the world. Classic Albums Live A significant aspect of the heritage rock discourse is the recent vogue for what is referred to as ‘‘Classic Albums Live’’. as with the Classic Albums television series. Indeed.’’ Classic Albums Live is a quintessential example of this legacy. as Toynbee (2006: 74–75) observes. That such studio-created soundscapes could not be reproduced live was considered of little consequence by rock artists and their audience.

. yet telling. the same way an orchestra performs the works of Mozart. In the case of . The producer described the performance about to take place not as a ‘‘concert’’ but a ‘‘recital’’. in recent years. the author attended a Classic Albums Live event featuring British hard rock band Led Zeppelin’s second album Led Zeppelin II (originally released on the Atlantic label in 1969). Prior to the beginning of the performance. Every sound. at a semantic level. who would attempt to capture the visual image of Led Zeppelin.specialises in recreating live. A. a collection of ‘‘versions’’ of songs to be re-worked in a live context or covered by other artists. The following example serves to illustrate this point. there has been an increasing tendency among original artists to present their own ‘‘classic album’’ shows. In November.Each performance is faithful to the exact sound of the albums. the substitution of the classically imbued term ‘‘works’’ for the more familiar rock terms ‘‘songs’’ or ‘‘tracks’’ also assists in the task of elevating the recorded output of the featured rock albums to the status of cultural heritage. the producer of the event took to the stage to address the audience (an audience incidentally of whom most were males between the approximate ages of 55 and 60. 2006: 13). . Such rhetoric is centrally important to the positioning of the Classic Albums Live concept as a contributing element of the heritage rock discourse. Similarly. . The programme notes supplied for the event extended this rhetoric of classical music performance: Classic Albums Live. . Where the critical distinction does lie.the greatest albums from the 1960s and 1970s. 2006. All of the musicians’ focus is put into the music. recasting the album as a body of work to be appreciated and understood in its entirety both as a recorded and live artefact. 2009). notable examples being Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds tour and Lou Reed’s live performance of Berlin. It also hinges around the manifestation of this understanding as a collective listening experience. In terms of attention to detail in reproducing the sound of an album in a live context. there is little distinction between classic albums performances by the original artist and the ensemble. the classic albums concept enshrines the listening experience within a unique and relatively exclusive opportunity to experience a meticulously performed recital of the ‘‘great work’’. rearticulation of that precise characteristic identified by Toynbee (2006) as separating popular and classical music. Led Zeppelin. is in the transference of the aura (Benjamin. . the musicians who would presently take to the stage. The performative conventions underpinning Classic Albums Live draw directly on the rhetoric of classical music performances. Bennett / Poetics 37 (2009) 474–489 481 The Classic Albums Live concept critically revises these established norms of the rock aesthetic. American cult band Sparks have recently undertaken a tour on which each of their existing twenty-one studio albums were performed live on consecutive nights (Ling. 1973) from performer/text to text itself. Rather than assuming the album to be a work in progress. Similarly. the Classic Albums Live concept insists on an understanding of the album as the master- narrative or ‘‘primary text’’ (Moore. of course. Most obviously. The Classic Albums Live concept is. Indeed. Drawing individual fans of the music together. Pink Floyd and more. with a small remaining percentage being made up of male university students mostly in their early 20s). they perform the works of Queen. not merely a facet of the specially assembled ensemble. the Beatles. 1993). comparing a rock performance to an orchestral performance seeks at some level to lift the former above the standard perception of the rock concert or ‘‘gig’’ by stripping it of the visual gimmickry associated with this mode of performance and recasting it as something to be appreciated purely in terms of its musical content. . every note. Here we see a subtle. but an ensemble of the best possible musicians brought together specifically for the purpose of recreating the music from the Led Zeppelin II album live on-stage. and every guitar and drum solo is performed live (Classic Albums Live. were not a tribute band. he stated.

however. Ultimately. A multiplicity of voices now engage in debates around definitions of history. texts and images. artists to public attention. culture and heritage that previously were confined to realm of intellectuals and experts. artistic merit and historical significance of particular rock groups and solo artists play a major part. Inevitably. often unacknowledged. Bennett / Poetics 37 (2009) 474–489 classic albums performances by the original artists. there exist alternative discourses within which the key to representing rock as heritage is the reassessment and critical re-working of some of the more ‘‘taken-for-granted’’ aspects of rock’s historical development. alongside more conservative expressions of heritage rock. Thus. Within this. There are clear parallels with other aspects of cultural heritage where the aura of the creator resides in the artefact. Eschewing the ‘‘classic albums’’ concept of heritage rock. the rhetoric of classical performance is centrally important. the groups and albums chosen for the recital format are entirely consistent with those generally acknowledged by rock critics. such alternative discourses strive to bring more obscure. as having made a major contribution to the field of rock. notably those created by leading publications such as Rolling Stone. In the case of an ensemble performance. As discussed above. debates concerning the authenticity. Thus. 2004b). they are also increasingly contested. the aura of the artist is experienced exclusively through the medium of the music. the aura of the artist as a live spectacle remains integral to a critical understanding and respect for the work performed. As noted previously. 2002. The mediatisation of society. carry considerable weight in marking out the cultural terrain of rock and identifying key historical moments that are said to define it. this is offset by counter-discourses generated by groups of fans themselves. 6.482 A. has functioned to undermine such exclusive forms of intellectual authority. These new avenues for individual involvement in determining moments of . for whatever reason. Here again. together with the readers’ polls of mainstream popular music magazines such as Rolling Stone and Mojo. Classic Albums Live constitutes an essentially conservative articulation of the heritage rock discourse. although dominant canonical discourses. justifying and legitimising their particular tastes (Bennett. Disregarding the theatrics of the rock performance and offering the audience instead an ensemble of musicians observing a quasi-classical performance ethic of faithful reproduction (which in some cases extends to reading from music scores). a central aspect of rock music fandom is the knowledge and expertise that individuals frequently bring to bear when defining. the latter carrying forward the essence of the creator well beyond his or her natural lifetime. A pertinent example of this is seen among vinyl record collectors for whom an understanding of rock history is often created through an appreciation of precisely those artists who. do not feature in the ratings lists of Rolling Stone and comparable magazines such as Mojo and Classic Rock. if contemporary notions of heritage and culture are increasingly multi-layered and open to interpretation. the Classic Albums Live concept focuses the attention of the audience squarely on the musical text and the mastery of the musicians in interpreting that text. such contestation of accepted rock histories is also present within particular expressions of the heritage rock discourse. Heritage acts and DIY preservationism The Classic Albums Live concept represents one initiative through which selected examples of late 1960s and early 1970s rock music are symbolically lifted above the mass cultural context of their production. As with other spheres of mass mediated popular culture. represented and discursively re-worked as an aspect of late twentieth century cultural heritage. characterised by increasing access to cultural products. however. as Hayes (2006) observes.

This particular form of DIY preservationism has a long and established history. These more recent canonical representations of Canterbury Sound fans exemplify an inherently DIY preservationist sensibility. an increasing number of small labels. An interesting example is seen in the ‘‘Canterbury Sound’’. from the outset. but they constitute a globally connected informal network of activity orientated towards a re-writing of contemporary popular music history (for other examples. I have drawn attention to the significance of the Canterbury Sound as a highly mythologised musical moment whose history has been re-written on several occasions as fans and enthusiasts seek to impose their own canonical template on a scene that was. such an activity allows DIY preservationists to apply their own conventions of taste and distinction in rescuing particular songs. In previous work (see Bennett. see Kibby. such enthusiasts are actively engaged in the production of an alternative history. 2002). A. bringing to bear their own local knowledge of a particular urban space. together with collaborations between members of the Wilde Flowers and other local musicians. fans apply their own creative license in constructing the city of Canterbury as a bonafide setting for what they consider a quintessential 1960s rock scene. fans of the American garage band scene of the 1960s re-issued what were considered classic examples of this still relatively obscure genre. assembling a collection of rare. fans began to reassess the term ‘‘Canterbury Sound’’ via access to the internet and other digital media resources. 2004b). 2000. DIY (do-it-yourself) attempts to preserve and cherish particular artefacts of rock. Lee and Peterson. Calyx. throughout the 1970s and 1980s. extending well back into the 20th century and the emergence of blues and jazz recordings. to the extent that they can no longer be regarded merely as isolated incidents of fan innovation. Again. highly contested not only by music journalists but by the musicians themselves. work to preserve and enshrine particular artists and albums facing the threat of eradication from ‘‘official’’ histories of rock. early recordings by the Wilde Flowers. In the sphere of rock too. melding this together with series of aesthetic judgements pertaining to issues of musical and cultural value. such instances of DIY preservation are becoming increasingly common. digging below accepted terrains of rock to expose those artists whose contribution to the field of rock have been lost or forgotten. Originally coined in the late 1960s by music journalists to describe a loose affiliation of musicians with Canterbury connections. UK-based independent record label that specialises in the re-issuing of deleted albums and . such as Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers. was established in 1995 and quickly became a space for on- line discussions about the nature and extent of Canterbury music. Another important medium through which DIY preservationists are able to create alternative discourses of heritage rock discourses is the establishment of small. albums and artists from obscurity and reinserting them into the rock historical context. during the mid-1990s. 2004). a dedicated Canterbury Sound website. and generally unknown. a local Canterbury-based group whose members went on to form early progressive rock groups such as Soft Machine and Caravan. 2002. Such renewed interest in the Canterbury Sound led one group of fans to participate in another significant DIY preservationist project. Similarly. independent record labels. In doing so. and for understanding the latter as integral to the character and flow of contemporary cultural history. Bennett / Poetics 37 (2009) 474–489 483 progress. As research on internet fan sites demonstrates. Such DIY preservationists concern themselves with representing the roots of the rock phenomenon. These recordings were subsequently released in a 4- volume series entitled ‘‘The Canterburied Sounds’’ (Bennett. established and operated by fans. have also led to a proliferation of self- fashioned. An illustrative case in point here is Songworks – a small. achievement and innovation in rock. Armed with a knowledge gleaned from various journalistic and media accounts concerning the essential ingredients of what constitutes a music scene.

Art itself had lost its actual value as art and it was just measured by its cost y’know. semi-structured interviews. quickly progressing through the heavily amplified rock of groups such as Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience to groups such as Yes.So the music which I liked. . populist accounts generally identify its origins in the psychedelia of the mid-1960s. we managed to unearth a few through my Gong connections and a few Van Der Graaf [Generator] people. threatened to erase from the cultural memory of the consumer a crucial aspect of progressive rock’s musical 4 Access to Songworks was gained during a larger study of the aesthetic practices engaged in by ageing audiences for popular music genres such as rock.Nobody was really that interested. CD was still a little bit in its infancy. Such a practice. In the case of progressive rock. The interview extracts included in this article are drawn from 45 min telephone interview conducted with Mike. all the obvious CDs had been reissued like Dark Side of the Moon. folk and jazz-rock fusion styles of the late 1960s and early 1970s. despite their status as ‘‘heritage acts’’. . Thus as Mike explains. An analogous reading of progressive rock’s origins is evident in Mike’s account of the origins of Songworks. in their marketing of progressive rock albums as CD re-issues. Data for this study were generated via a qualitative research methodology. . with which Mike is primarily concerned here. Remaining very much ‘‘underground’’. things like that or the Beatles. the founder and head of Songworks. In his book The Music’s All That Matters. the most crucial artefact of groups such as Gong and Van Der Graaf Generator – their recorded music – was threatened with eradication in the wake of the digital era. or Genesis. according to Stump. y’ know. In doing so. including fieldwork observations and one-to-one. Stump (1997) revisits and re-evaluates progressive rock. their popularity. . The definition of heritage rock articulated here is significantly different from that espoused by the more populist representations reflected in the Classic Albums Live concept. he alludes. and consolidation of the progressive rock label. Bennett / Poetics 37 (2009) 474–489 the issuing of previously unreleased material by less well-known artists associated with the progressive. So it was all about bean counting essentially. and the accountants had taken over all the major record companies. the founder and head of the Songworks label in March. nevertheless a critical element in the emergence of progressive rock and a pivotal part of its history and heritage. such artists were. But nobody had really got into the swing of putting out unreleased things. came through significant commercial success in the US and in a broader global was the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. punk and dance music. and then it suddenly meant something. major record labels drew directly on canonical artists such as Pink Floyd and Genesis rather than formative. .Nobody was really doing reissues or actually speaking to these more heritage type acts at all. which was a type progressive rock. 2004.484 A. y’know. .4 Speaking in an aesthetic language more readily associated with punk and alternative record labels than one associated with rock music. Although each of the latter groups were English in origin. . The only way you got people to listen to demos in those days was to tell them that it cost 50 grand per demo. And essentially that was the start of Songworks. Moreover. according to Mike. was few and far between and nobody was doing anything. within the lineage of progressive rock. explained the rational behind his decision to establish the label: The basic history of Songworks is that. less commercial progressive rock artists. Stump once again locates progressive rock as an ‘‘English’’ genre with roots in the jazz-rock and experimental avant garde music of artist such as Gong and Van Der Graaf Generator. . painting in the process a far more intricate and localised picture of the genre’s origins. . all that sort of stuff. And eh. Genesis and Emerson Lake and Palmer. Mike.

In discussing this aspect of Songworks. we don’t remix. the perception of the heritage act as a historical and cultural artefact went beyond the level of the purely discursive. . in such cases the physical condition of a recording was superseded by its sheer historical significance – something which again related back to a desire to engage with and re-address the more popular history of rock as conveyed through its mainstream representation. Similarly. A. During the mid-1980s. You’re asking me about two different things. Mike articulated a deeply invested DIY preservationist sensibility. The concept of heritage. as defined in this context. the notion of the ‘‘heritage act’’ works on the principle that it is often those acts who have worked.: So you never do anything like that. . In justifying Songwork’s decision to work with and . .B. integrity and heritage status over those that have been canonised within more mainstream notions of rock.I think remixing is tampering with history. In the context of Songworks. not re-mixing. This preservationist discourse was also employed as a means of protecting the sanctity of recordings. . This is clearly evident in the following interview extract: A. Thus. In some cases elements of songs that had been edited out of the original recordings were re-added and ‘‘bonus’’ tracks recorded during the original sessions for an album included. material re-issued on CD was often re-mixed. then. Indeed. It’s like nipping down to the Sistine Chapel and changing the colour scheme of it. The term ‘‘heritage act’’. even when their quality was clearly well below that of material usually made available for public purchase and consumption. according to Mike. the very fact of such hyper-commodification distorts the representation of rock history – highlighting the contribution of the few but dismissing the equally important work of the many. when CD-re-issues of albums first recorded during the 1960s and 1970s first began to appear. below the radar of commercial success who give rock music its true distinctiveness. A. For Mike. Mike was at pains to point out that albums re-issued by Songworks were re-mastered but not re-mixed. it also informed the hands-on technical work carried out on the music released by the label. If you clean it up you can see it better. . that would be like re-mastering. That’s why [I use] the analogy with nipping down the Sistine Chapel. In relation to this. digital technology and the CD. which became accentuated when discussing the interventionist possibilities afforded by the contemporary recording studio.B. is designed to address the commercial bias of the major record labels by attempting to reposition hidden or forgotten artists and their music back into the frame of rock historical consciousness. Bennett / Poetics 37 (2009) 474–489 485 and cultural development on its pathway to critical acclaim. highlights aspects of tradition. for whatever reason. however. M: Well that’s re-mastering. achievement and perceived distinctiveness (and the enhanced need to preserve the latter in the face of encroaching global cultural trends). when applied in the rhetorical context of national culture and identity. ‘cause that would be like re-mixing.: Do you remix albums before putting them onto CD? Mike: We re-master.even when the sound quality could be better by. as opposed to just cleaning it up. . one in which he interestingly compares his own practices of caring for and respecting the creative decisions of the original artist with those informing the care of and respect for more conventionally acknowledged aspects of heritage and culture. a further dimension of Mike’s particular articulation of the heritage rock discourse became apparent. But you don’t change the colour scheme. y’know.

. their recorded work is becoming a dominant artefact and focus for cultural consecration. the importance of rock comes to be regarded by the baby-boomer audience as something that surpasses the connection with youth. With the fullness of time. the rock music of the late 1960s and early 1970s is understood as something that has both fundamentally influenced and critically changed the trajectory of western culture in the late 20th century. you could say ‘‘well’’.there’s a couple of tracks by Soft Machine which we released which eh. Through such institutions rock is represented as musical genre and cultural form worthy of what Schmutz (2005) refers to as cultural consecration. the type of ‘‘heritage act’’ discourse articulated above amounts to a form of musical archaeology. y’know. Integral to the latter is a particular generational structure of feeling. . he explained: . and as the above examples illustrate. in many cases. DIY rock preservationism may well expand to include increasingly obscure. 2005) of rock music through discourses of heritage is increasingly widespread and subject to a plurality of articulations. historically they’re [of] value y’know. 7. As one of the first generations to come of age in a fully mediatised. in fairness. guitarist Andy Summers was a member of Soft Machine for several months in 1968. and increasing age of many rock icons. Rather. . is now being culturally and historically repositioned through the application of heritage discourses. . But those are the only recordings which exist anywhere which ha[ve] got Andy Summers5 on them. culture and heritage. such as politicians and sporting celebrities. Thus. in the collective cultural memory of the ageing baby-boomer generation. the cultural consecration (Schmutz. and in a period of rapid economic and educational expansion. fully consumerised society. they’re terrible quality. be argued that critical in rock’s re-inscription as an aspect of cultural heritage in this way is the cultural hegemony of the baby-boomer generation per se. The concluding section of this article considers the broader significance of the heritage rock discourse as a means of understanding the re-classification of rock music as an aspect of late 20th cultural heritage. In any event. cultural and economic capital are clearly key to the baby boomer’s ability to assert the significance of their generational experience within the plurality of competing heritage discourses alluded to by Atkinson (2005). Conclusion: heritage rock and cultural memory The purpose of this article has been to illustrate. of course. Mike again employed an analogical rhetoric that drew comparisons with more conventional understandings of history. such excavations of rock’s forgotten history are likely to become more abundant as further advances in digital recording and sound restoration are made. At the risk of completely going over the top. ‘you could[n’t] chuck the Dead Sea Scrolls away [just] because they’re knackered’’. become lost in time.So. working over the rock cultural terrain and resurrecting those parts of its history which have. and youthhood memories. It could. . shared by ageing baby boomers and endorsed by those prestige awarding institutions in which this generation has a significant stake. In terms of their contribution to the socio-cultural fabric of this period. Technologically speaking. an acquired social. rock artists and their music take on a stature similar to that of other leading figure heads.486 A. In many ways. As such. As such. Bennett / Poetics 37 (2009) 474–489 release such material. appearing live with the group but not recording with them. 5 Better known for his work with British post-punk band the Police. as originally defined by an aesthetic dating back to the mid-1960s. how ‘‘rock’’ music. locally specific artists whose ‘‘rediscovery’’ is inherently linked to more regional celebrations of heritage and identity. they’re completely abysmal quality. with reference to specific examples.

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